Britney Spears wasn't the only one putting on a show last week -- corporate earnings and merger activity played starring roles as well.

The curtain went up Monday to usher in end-of-the-month selling as investors took profits and sent stocks down broadly. Techs took the hardest hit, with the Nasdaq falling 1.3%. Mixed economic data showing manufacturing strength and housing weakness left the market gyrating in place Tuesday morning. Prices headed upward in the afternoon, with the Dow attaining another record close.

On Wednesday, stocks strutted their stuff.  Strong earnings and deal activity sent the market higher, and another record close was in store for the Dow after gaining more than 75 points. The S&P 500 grabbed headlines on Thursday as it crossed the 1,500 level amid more good earnings and economic data. Deal chatter and a positive spin on soft employment figures let stocks close their show by rising again on Friday.

The scene-stealer this week will be the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) as it meets and issues its interest-rate decision and policy statement Wednesday afternoon. Economic data scheduled for release include consumer credit today, wholesale trade tomorrow, durable goods on Wednesday, international trade and chain store sales on Thursday, and the producer price index, retail sales, and business inventories on Friday.

Corporations reporting earnings include McKesson and Cutera today, Cisco, CVS, and Walt Disney tomorrow; Toll Brothers, Toyota, and Whole Foods on Wednesday; Viacom and Vonage on Thursday; and Alcatel-Lucent on Friday.

Stay market-tuned and Foolish!

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Foolish Quiz
1. True or false: The S&P 500 crossed 1,500 for the first time last week.

2. Which media company's shares gained more on Friday: Reuters (NASDAQ:RTRSY) or Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO)?

3. True or false: Earnings from Time Warner (NYSE:TWX) disappointed Wall Street.

4. True or false: Dow Jones (NYSE:DJ) and News Corp. (NYSE:NWS) agreed to merge.

5. True or false: NYSE Euronext entered a bidding war for the International Securities Exchange.

6. Which accounted for a steep drop in earnings of General Motors (NYSE:GM): vehicle sales or home lending?

7. Which company reported more attractive earnings: Avon or Liz Claiborne?

8. True or false: Rupert Murdoch made an offer for Cablevision.

9. Which index finished April with the smallest gains? (a) The Dow, (b) the Nasdaq, (c) the S&P 500.

10. Who staged a comeback last week? (a) The CEO of BP, (b) Delta, (c) media stocks, (d) Britney Spears.

1. False. When the S&P 500 closed at 1,502.39 on Thursday, it broke a significant psychological barrier but not new ground. The index last closed above the 1,500 mark in September 2000. 

2. Reuters. Shares of both media companies spiked higher on Friday because of deal talk. U.S.-traded shares of Reuters closed 26.9% higher following news that it had been approached by an undisclosed party about a possible takeover. Shares of Yahoo! jumped 9.9% after reports that it might be bought by Microsoft, whose shares slipped 1.3%.

3. False. Despite Time Warner's report of an 18% fall in first-quarter profit on Wednesday, earnings still were stronger than expected, and the company raised its full-year forecast. Shares rose 1.7%.

4. False. While that news might one day make headlines, News Corp. actually made an unsolicited offer for Dow Jones on Tuesday. While Dow Jones said it was considering the offer despite opposition from the controlling Bancroft family, shares spiked 54.7% while those of Rupert Murdoch's company lost 4.2%. 

5. False. Despite speculation that NYSE Euronext may bid for ISE, no such offer has materialized to counter the $2.8 billion purchase agreement with Deutsche Borse on Monday. Shares of ISE surged 45.9%, while those of NYSE slipped 0.9%.

6. Home lending. GM posted a 90% tumble in first-quarter earnings, blamed on losses incurred in GMAC Financial Services from residential-mortgage woes. GM retains a 49% stake in GMAC after selling a 49% off to private investors last year.

7. Avon. The cosmetics company put on a much more attractive face by posting a near tripling of its first-quarter profit, while earnings at apparel maker Liz Claiborne dropped 65% and the company issued a weak profit outlook.

8. False. It seems that Murdoch has his hands full with the Dow Jones offer. On Wednesday, Cablevision agreed to an offer from the founding Dolan family to go private for approximately $10.6 billion, at $36.26 a share, an 11% premium to the prior trading session's closing price. Third time's a charm for the Dolans, whose two prior offers to purchase the company had been deemed inadequate.

9. (b). It may have taken third place, but the Nasdaq's 4.2% gain in April was still quite impressive. The Dow claimed first place with a 5.7% increase, and the S&P 500 rose 4.3%.

10. (b), (c), (d). In a week that featured Spears making her first public concert appearance in nearly three years, Delta also announced its comeback by saying that it has emerged from bankruptcy. Shares of the company's new common stock opened for trading on the Big Board on Thursday at $21.75.

Media stocks also got good press last week amid all the deal speculation, and the Dow Jones US Media Index increased 1.3%. BP CEO John Browne probably would have liked a little less media attention as he stepped down after losing a legal battle to keep under wraps the details of his personal life and allegations of improper use of the company's assets.


  • 8-10 correct: Foolishly impressive.
  • 6-7 correct: Almost Foolish.
  • 1-5 correct: OK, but just barely.
  • 0 correct: Really?! Keep reading the Fool, and watch your scores improve!

Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. Disney, Whole Foods, and Yahoo! are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. NYSE Euronext is a Motley Fool Rule Breaker pick. Whatever your investing style, the Fool has a newsletter for you, and a free 30-day trial to get you started.

Fool contributor S.J. Caplan, a former vice president and assistant general counsel of Goldman Sachs and former vice president and derivative finance specialist at Lehman Brothers, owns shares of NYSE Euronext. She serves as an arbitrator for the New York Stock Exchange and the NASD. The Fool has a disclosure policy.